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Pennsylvania

Jeannette teacher charged with having sex with student

Renatta Signorini
| Friday, April 8, 2016, 2:27 p.m.
Maria Chappell enters the Jeannette office of Magisterial District Judge  Joseph DeMarchis on April 8, 2016. Chappell is a Jeannette High School teacher accused of having sex with a student in her classroom.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Maria Chappell enters the Jeannette office of Magisterial District Judge Joseph DeMarchis on April 8, 2016. Chappell is a Jeannette High School teacher accused of having sex with a student in her classroom.

A female Jeannette High School teacher had sex multiple times in her English classroom with a male student this year, according to court papers filed Friday.

Maria C. Chappell, 38, of Mt. Pleasant Township also is accused of renting a hotel room where she and the student spent a day together in February.

She didn't say anything to reporters after being arraigned before District Judge Joseph DeMarchis on felony charges of having sexual contact with a student, corruption of minors and unlawful contact with a minor. Attorney Jeff Monzo declined to comment on the accusations after the proceeding.

District Superintendent Matthew Hutcheson said Friday that Chappell has been “removed” as a teacher.

“... This is to advise students and parents that all appropriate steps are being taken to address this situation and to avoid future situations,” Hutcheson said in an emailed statement.

Westmoreland County Detective Randall Gardner said in court papers that high school Principal Patricia Rozycki reported on March 17 to police that “she had become suspicious due to some things that had been occurring at the school.”

Both the male student and Chappell told school officials that they had engaged in a sexual relationship, Gardner wrote in the complaint. The student told investigators that he and Chappell had sexual relations on multiple occasions in Chappell's classroom after school and in her vehicle in various locations in the city, according to court documents.

They both skipped school Feb. 29, Chappell picked the student up near his home and the pair spent the day at a room she rented at Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Hempfield, Gardner wrote in the complaint.

A forensic examination of cellphones and computers is being conducted. An initial review of electronic communication between the defendant and student showed messages of a sexual nature, Gardner said.

Chappell is free on $50,000 unsecured bail. DeMarchis ordered that she be placed on electronic monitoring by county probation officers. DeMarchis crafted several bond requirements that forbid Chappell from having contact with the student or his family.

“The fact that the alleged victim is a child, I can't ignore that fact,” he said. “I'm moved by the fact that these allegations ... took place in a classroom, in a school. This wasn't out somewhere; it was in school.”

“I'm looking at this total picture,” he said. “Those factors bother me a great deal.”

Monzo told the judge that Chappell doesn't have a criminal record and has been a teacher in the district for 13 years.

“She intends to address this; her husband is here to address it,” Monzo said. “She's been a wonderful contributing member of society.”

Chappell is forbidden to be within 100 yards of the student's home “or any place he might be found.” She also is not permitted on school district property and is forbidden from having contact with district employees, unless it pertains to her employment, the judge ordered.

Chappell worked as an English teacher in classes for ninth-, 10- and 11th-graders, according to the school district's website. She taught a class called “ethically speaking” to ninth-graders, the site said.

A preliminary hearing is set for April 22.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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